Xenosaga Episode III
|Xenosaga Episode III|
|Genre(s)||Role-playing video game|
Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra[a] is a role-playing video game developed by Monolith Soft and published by Namco (Namco Bandai Games in North America) for the PlayStation 2 in 2006. It is the final entry in both the Xenosaga trilogy and the larger Xenosaga series, which forms part of the Xeno metaseries. Concluding the narrative of Xenosaga Episode I and Episode II, Episode III sees Shion Uzuki and the battle android KOS-MOS search out the origins of the hostile alien Gnosis while being hunted by Shion's former employers and four powerful humans called the Testaments. Gameplay is carried over from the first two games, featuring exploration of 3D environments and turn-based battles.
Concept work for Xenosaga Episode III began during the later development of Xenosaga Episode II in 2004. The development team's aim was to address issues raised by fans and staff with the previous two Xenosaga games, along with bringing the story to a satisfactory conclusion. Due to the decision to turn the intended six-part series into a trilogy, the original draft for Episode III was substantially reworked. As with previous Xenosaga titles, the subtitle was drawn from the work of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Upon release, the game was praised by critics, and went on to sell over 340,000 copies worldwide.
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After discovering that Vector and her father are linked with both U-TIC and the Gnosis threat, Shion quits Vector and allies with underground group Scientia to investigate. Her former co-worker Allen takes her place looking after KOS-MOS. Meanwhile Canaan, Jr., Jin, chaos, MOMO and Ziggy are investigating a landmass that seemingly originated from Lost Jerusalem. They are attacked by Margulis, then the landmass is swallowed with the Elsa in an inverted pocket of hyperspace. Shion meanwhile visits Allen, and sees the demonstration of two new weapons for fighting the Gnosis—T-elos, a battle robot similar to KOS-MOS; and Omega, a mech piloted by a young boy named Abel. After the test, T-elos' creator Roth Mantel informs Allen that KOS-MOS will be scrapped so development can focus on T-elos. As KOS-MOS's weaponry is the only way to break into the hyperspace pocket and save the Elsa, Shion leads the group into the facility and rescues KOS-MOS, guided at one point by Abel. During this time, Shion has frequent visions of the girl Nephilim, and has blackouts where she is contacted by the god-like U-DO. Actions are also observed by Wilhelm, who is working with the Testaments.
Entering the hyperspace pocket, they find the Elsa and investigate the area, encountering both Albedo and Virgil. They learn that artifacts called Vessels of Anima power their mechs, and are linked to the Testament's plans. They are then confronted by Mantel—who reveals himself as the Red Testament—and T-elos. T-elos almost kills KOS-MOS, but Shion's pendant activates, apparently transporting them to the planet Miltia fifteen years into the past, which is revealed to be a world within Shion's subconscious. They are confronted by the Black Testament Voyager, who is beaten back by KOS-MOS. During the group's time there, Shion learns the events that caused Miltia's fall; her father, Kevin, Margulis and MOMO's creator Joachim Mizrahi were attempting to control the Zohar through experiments involving both Shion and her mother, but when U-TIC and Federation forces clashed, Kevin and Margulis' actions released an army of rampaging combat Realians which slaughtered nearly everyone in the battle. The trauma caused a young Shion to summon the Gnosis and awaken U-DO; it was only Mizrahi's sacrifice which prevented the Gnosis and U-DO from spreading. The group fight Virgil before he is calmed by the spirit of Febronia—who tended him with he was injured and with whom he formed an attachment—and follows her into death. The Red Testament also appears, revealing himself to be Kevin and asking Shion to come with him.
Escaping Kevin and T-elos escape from Shion's subconscious back into the normal world, but following this Shion becomes emotionally unstable. During their absence, the Federation government is manipulated by Yuriev into assaulting the home planet of Ormus in search of an artifact called Zarathustra. The group sees Abel's Ark, summoned by the events in Shion's subconscious, appear in the real world and begin causing planets to vanish as it moves through space in search of Zarathustra. Nephilim asks Shion to free Abel from Yuriev's control, then Yuriev leads the Federation fleet and Omega to capture the Durendal. Yuriev uses the Zohar Emulators stored in the Durandal, intent on using them in combination with Omega and Abel's Ark to defeat U-DO by rising to godhood. The group successfully infiltrate Abel's Ark, then Jr. kills Yuriev with help from Albedo, who teleports Abel and the Zohar away. The conflict results in Albedo's consciousness merging with Jr.. The group follow Abel and the Zohar to the planet Michtam, the holy land of Ormus. There they kill a disillusioned Margulis, and Canaan sacrifices himself to destroy Voyager.
Descending deeper into Michtam, Shion experiences visions of Lost Jerusalem, seeing chaos existing in that time under the name "Yeshua" alongside Mary Magdalene—who looks similar to KOS-MOS—and Jesus prior to his death. They have a final confrontation with T-elos. They learn that T-elos was created using the body of Mary Magdalene, and that KOS-MOS houses Mary's soul, with both needing to be united. The group are then confronted by Kevin, who asks KOS-MOS and Shion to join him. Shion, blinded by her love, joins him until Allen convinces her otherwise, voicing his own long-held love. The group then confront Wilhelm at Zarathustra's resting place, activating it using Abel, the Zohar and the Vessels of Anima. Wilhelm reveals himself to be an immortal being who has been preventing the imminent death of the universe by transporting human souls to the beginning of time by triggering eternal recurrence using Zarathustra; the Gnosis are spawned from human wills that reject U-DO. Shion, whose will and necklace is the key to activating Mary and triggering the plan, is tortured by Wilhelm in an attempt to make her wish for recurrence. KOS-MOS instead shatters the necklace, preventing the recurrence from ever happening. Kevin then sacrifices himself to destroy Wilhelm, allowing the group to cripple Zarathustra.
Abel, Nephilim, KOS-MOS and chaos choose to stay behind, drawing all Gnosis to them and moving the entire planet to the system of Lost Jerusalem—their actions and the release of chaos's energy will delay the universe's destruction, giving Shion timed to find Lost Jerusalem and discover the key to changing humanity's will and saving the universe. During the escape, Jin sacrifices himself to save Shion. The resultant explosion destroys the hyperspace travel network. Shion goes with Jr. and Allen on the Elsa to find Lost Jerusalem, while MOMO stays behind with Ziggy to reconstruct the hyperspace network. In the mid and post-credit scenes, a badly-damaged KOS-MOS floats through space and is contacted by chaos, saying they will both awake when they are needed—KOS-MOS is last seen drifting towards Lost Jerusalem.
Development of Xenosaga Episode III began in 2004 during the final development stages of Episode II. While Xenosaga was initially planned as a six-part series, changes at developer Monolith Soft resulted in series creator Tetsuya Takahashi giving guidance of the series to younger developers within the company. During this period, the team decided to turn the Xenosaga series into a trilogy, resulting in changes to the planned scenario and some elements being turned into side projects such as Xenosaga: Pied Piper. The director was Kaori Ando, who had previously directed Episode II. Takahashi drafted and supervised the scenario, which was written by Episode II writer Norihiko Yonesaka. One of the main goals when developing Episode III was not only to bring a satisfactory end to the Xenosaga storyline up to that point, but to address criticism of the short length of Episode II's story, while also addressing general problems noticed with both Episode I and Episode II. Namco Bandai later stated in an interview that the game's final form was based on both fan feedback and the wish of internal staff, with the final game being "something very close to what [they believed] to be the original ideal".
According to original Xenosaga writer Soraya Saga, the changes to the original narrative plan for Episode II resulted in several narrative shifts within Episode III, deviating from Takahashi and Saga's original draft. The scenario for Episode III includes narrative elements Takahashi originally created for Episode II, which had been cut from Episode II due to time constraints. As with the rest of the trilogy, the game made heavy use of Biblical mythology. The game's subtitle was taken from the native title of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, a novel by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. The use of Nietzsche's works and concepts was a recurring element in the series. The original character artist for Xenosaga, Kunihiko Tanaka, was replaced by Kouichi Mugitani, who also acted as production designer as he had for the previous Xenosaga games. The character designs were adjusted by Mugitani to balance between the designs of Episode I and Episode II. While most of the designs were adaptions of Tanaka's earlier work, he also designed a new version of KOS-MOS and multiple new mechs. Mugitani's mech and armor designs drew from both the Gundam franchise and the 1997 film adaptation of Starship Troopers.
Xenosaga Episode III was officially announced in 2005, alongside Xenosaga I & II—a Nintendo DS remake of the first two Xenosaga episodes—and Baten Kaitos Origins. With its announcement, it was widely confirmed that it would be the last installment in the Xenosaga series. The game was announced for a western release in April 2006. For its western release, all scenes where blood was visible were censored: the blood was removed, for all other aspects remained unchanged, resulting in visual and audio inconsistencies. The game released in Japan on July 6, 2006 by Namco; in North America, the game released on August 29 of that year by Namco Bandai Games. The game was localized for the West by Namco Bandai and 8-4; Xenosaga Episode III was one of 8-4's earliest projects. English dubbing was handled by Cup of Tea Productions, who had previously worked on Episode II. Unlike Episode II, Episode III was not released in Europe.
The music for Episode III was composed by Yuki Kajiura. Having previous contributed to the score of Episode II by composing the cimenatic tracks, Kajiura was brought back to compose the entire score. Despite the increased work load of handling an entire game's soundtrack, Kajiura found the difficulty similar to the work she did on Episode II. She drew inspiration from the game's artwork and impression of the setting when creating the score. Takahashi, in addition to his other roles in production, acted as coordinator for the score. A soundtrack album titled Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra Original Sound Best Tracks, featuring selections from the game's score, was published by Victor Entertainment on July 12, 2006. The album's brevity was due to the fact that the full soundtrack would have taken up six CDs, and so Kajiura was asked by sound producer Keiichi Nozaki to create samples for a two-disc release.
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